Balancing the Grind with Jennie N So, Senior Director

Jennie N So is a Senior Director who has worked with brands such as WeWork, Burberry and Gensler, leading and navigating large-scale internal and external initiatives.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

One can say that focus on the user, along with collaborating with the best talents have been the consistent elements in my journey so far.

I spent the first part of my career in crafting work environments – design, client engagement and everything in-between that made the experience memorable and sustainable for large organisations all over the world.

I then had the incredible opportunity to join a former client, a British luxury fashion brand, to help expand in Asia and Australia. I joined as we set out to transform the business, and created a disruption in the industry along the way.

The challenge of being thrown into the deep end (in a good way) would be repeated when I joined WeWork to build a new design team for Pacific and help launched a new product. It was the ride of a lifetime, needless to say, and you’d find many who’d attest the same.

It’s the people I miss most, all working towards a dream, which I’d do all over again. I’m exploring what the next adventure could be – it will definitely be something in extending human experiences, with an element of spatial theory, and tech-enabled.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Starting out the day with the right intentions and priming through mindfulness training and gratitude journaling are essential. I usually wake early to catch folks in the Bay Area.

When not on a call, mornings are saved for focusing and sorting types of tasks, leaving free-flow thinking (daydreaming, really) and spending time with my little nephew and niece making pancakes in the early afternoon.

If not on calls with Europe afterwards, I catch up on podcasts and Audible, followed by an early dinner and sometimes, more phone calls with the East Coast. Pre-bedtime Netflix, optional.

3) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I think it’s employing tweaks to your routine to balance your energy and attention levels. I recently attended a mindfulness and leadership training by Search Inside Yourself Learning Institute (SIYLI) that started at Google.

I picked up some great micropractice tips such as taking a minute to ‘arrive’, transitioning into the next task. It feels less overwhelming when I have a picture of what’s going on throughout my day. Sleep is also a necessity, not a nice-to-have.

4) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

From flying 160k km (ie 4x around the equator) last year, I have done the exact reverse in the past 4 months. As with many, I’m starting to feel some withdrawal but seeing this as a rare privilege to spend time and hang out with family.

5) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

How much time have we got? It depends on where my mind is at. More recently, I really enjoy reading Peter Diamandis’s books and newsletters as he provides a filter of optimism along with facts, something we all need now.

My Audible is usually full of non-fiction – biographies, tech, design, mental models subjects. I also couldn’t put down health-related books by David Sinclair and Dave Asprey, which is where I get biohacking ideas from – fasting, diet and supplements (that my family can’t stand).

Kara Swisher, Guy Raz, Reid Hoffmann and Tara Brach are staples in my podcast list.

6) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

My iPhone and a rotation of apps to trial, Hasami mug and eucalyptus oils to refresh!

7) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?

Fun question! I’d pick Peter Zumthor, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Kazuyo Sejima and John Pawson – being heavily biased towards minimalism as I’m interested in how habits play out in their trains of thought and narratives.

8) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Since our attention is the most precious commodity these days, always ask what matters and synchronise it with an understanding of your own biology. Nerdy but it hopefully works.

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.